Our trusty Subaru Outback has taken us many places, allowed us to meet many great people, and ride some of the best trails in the country (click to enlarge).
Editor's Note: Jordan Carr and co-author and photographer Leilani Bruntz are currently traveling the country spreading the gospel of mountain biking as the Subaru-IMBA Trail Care Crew. Along the way they've learned a thing or two about packing a car. They've also gotten to explore some of the country's best riding locales, which they've been sharing in a reoccurring Mtbr Trail Report series. Follow Carr and Bruntz's adventures on Facebook and Instagram, and be sure to check out their riding write-ups on Salida, Colorado, Oakridge, Oregon, Phoenix, Arizona, Marquette, Michigan, Brown County, Indiana, Cable, Wisconsin, and Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Sometimes your gear load looks overwhelming, but it's always worth it to be prepared (click to enlarge).
As the two-person Subaru-IMBA Trail Care crew, my girlfriend Leilani and I have been traveling the country, working with local mountain bike organizations with the goal of improving local trail development. When not working with local land managers, bike clubs, and/or community officials, we have filled our time with as much adventure, sightseeing, and food as possible. In other words, we're professionally homeless, living and working out of a Subaru Outback station wagon. That's meant fitting all the necessary gear for riding, hiking, cooking, camping, and working into one brightly colored car.
To spend two years living out of a four-wheeled home, you have to do more than just stuff it with gear. Establishing a system that's allowed us to spontaneously embark on rides in the middle of a 10-hour drive without fully unpacking the car has been imperative. Now, after more than a year on the road, we've learned a lot about being efficient road warriors. Here are eight tips and tricks to help you prepare for your next mountain bike excursion.
A quality rack system will help keep your bike safe and secure. We use a Yakima HoldUp 2 hitch rack. If you plan to spend a significant amount of time traveling with your mountain bikes exposed to the elements invest in some type of bike cover (click to enlarge).
1. Get a Rack
Keeping bikes and gear accessible is far easier if you have a good rack system. We've been using the Yakima HoldUp 2 hitch rack paired with a Yakima Skybox on the roof. This combo allows us to keep non-essentials up top, while our bikes are always accessible. No matter what you choose, having good rack system will make organization much easier.
It's hard to beat pulling over and just enjoying the scenery. A well-organized adventure vehicle allows you to be ready for any great camp spot you may stumble upon (click to enlarge).
2. Pack Light
This might seem obvious, but as you visualize every possible scenario you may encounter it becomes challenging to keep gear to a minimum. But the longer we've been on the road, the more we've weeded out from our initial set up, figuring what we really need and what's expendable. Keep this in mind as you start packing, and ask yourself will I really need this extra pair of jeans or a fourth T-shirt?
Being prepared for a variety of adventures can be challenging. Do you carry only lightweight camp gear so you can be ready for that last minute bikepack or backpack trip? Should we carry the heavier, more comfortable sleeping pads and bags for those cold nights car camping? These are all decisions that are factored in depending on where you are headed and what your adventure goals are (click to enlarge).
When packing, think bins and bags. Having a specific place for all your gear is the key to tracking it down at the vital time when you need it. Organize things by uses. For us that's meant having individual bags for riding gear, shoes, coffee, and kitchen items. This reduces frustration (and soak time) when it's pouring rain and you are feverously searching for your raincoat and headlamp to get camp setup.
4. Choose Multipurpose Gear
This may seem obvious, but in a time when many of us have numerous similar items with highly specific purposes, it's easy to get attached to a favorite pair of riding shorts or rain jacket. That's fine. But when heading out on the road, make sure those items can serve as your riding gear - and work for hiking, grocery shopping, and just hanging out at camp. One great item we've discovered are mason jars. We each have one that's used for coffee, water, beer, and all our other drinks. They don't retain flavor and are a great drinking vessel that's far better than wasteful plastic cups.
Continue to page 2 for more road trip tips from the Subaru-IMBA Trail Care Crew »
We carry all our camping gear, bikepacking gear, and trail building / presentation materials in our Yakima Skybox (l). Dont be afriad to check out the local cuisine (r) (click to enlarge).
5. Think Access
Prioritize items you will need to access frequently. Do you like to get out and ride between destinations? Need to have coffee before you can function in the morning? Want your headlamp when it's dark? Keep these key items in easily accessible places for when you need them most.
Adventures are always better with good food. Having the ability to create top-notch meals no matter where we are is an important part of why we love to travel. With a variety of essentials, our kitchen has allowed us to cook some fresh, tasty meals in the middle of nowhere and we love that (click to enlarge).
6. Draw Borders
For the sake of personal packing style, Leilani and I each have our own side of the car, which we can organize however we see fit, as long as our personal belongings stay to the side, leaving a center isle for mutual items such as the cooler, coffee, and our presentation bin full of work material. We keep our duffle bags and daily items we need to get to on a regular basis next to each door. Shoes are in bins behind the front seat. On the back of each front seat are organizational pocket systems for small gizmos and gadgets. This along with cup holders and side door storage allows us to access everything from chain lube to chamois cream.
Items we need on a less regular basis go in the back of the car, because normally our bikes are unloaded when we need these items. If bikes are not unloaded, we can lower them out of the way using the pivot system on our bike rack, which allows the back door to open. Less frequently used items such as camping gear, trail-building tools, bike pumps, spare bike parts, and dirty laundry all live on the roof in the Skybox.
Sometimes the route less traveled is that way for good reason. This road was not the best choice we have made seeking out unique routes, but we made it out. One great thing about an adventure vehicle is that you'll always be prepared for an unexpected night out, making these unforeseen conditions much less stressful (click to enlarge).
7. Bring Tools
Like any adventure, being prepared to solve problems as they arise is critical. Make sure you have a good assortment of tools, including a full spectrum of Allen keys, chain tool, cassette tool, needle nose pliers, cable cutters, zip ties, duct tape, and chain lube. It's also worth packing a few versatile tools such as a crescent wrench and hammer. Maps are another vital tool. If your smartphone or GPS is lacking signal or battery, a map of the area you're headed to will provide critical beta.
8. Have a Plan
Finally, if you're considering packing up your rig and hitting the road in search of the adventure, we highly recommend devising at least a loose plan. Though we often end up making changes to our itinerary, it helps to have some ideas and goals for a trip. Whether it's just a long weekend our a month long adventure, loading up the car and experiencing a new place can be an amazing escape from daily life, especially if that new place is filled with amazing trails. Get out and experience somewhere new, with a little planning and strategizing you won't regret it.